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Breaking the blockade

61 years of political stalemate between the United States and Cuba has caused suffering and distress to Cuban families, which has been intensified by the Covid-19 pandemic. In a few weeks’ time, the United Nations General Assembly will vote, once again, to dissolve the US blockade. The CSC will conduct a live meeting on the issue from Havana on 24 May, at 6:30 pm.

 

Leading the rebel army through Havana in 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew the government of Fulgencio Batista on January 1. By 1961, the Cuban government declared itself the first Socialist country in the Western Hemisphere.

In response the United States imposed economic, commercial, and financial restrictions with Cuba which has developed into a six-decade old US blockade.

The US blockade is a collection of US laws and legislation which restrict Cuba from trade and normal relations with the US, and in some cases, with other countries too. Further legislation was introduced in the 1990’s that codified the blockade into US law, meaning it can only be fully lifted by an act of Congress. Therefore, Cuba presents an annual resolution to the United Nations General Assembly that condemns this legislation.

On 23rd June the United Nations General Assembly will vote for the 29th year on Cuba’s resolution demanding an end to the US blockade.

Under the presidency of Donald Trump, 243 additional measures and sanctions were introduced by the US government.

Some administration policies have separated families by reducing visa applications and suspending commercial flights.

They also prohibited Cuban Americans and Cuban residents in other co untries from sending remittances home to loved ones and stopped US citizens from travelling to the island.

According to Cuba’s 2016 report to the United Nations: “The economic damage caused to the Cuban people through application of the United States economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba amounts to US $753.688 billion, despite the decline in the value of gold compared to the previous period. At current prices, the embargo has inflicted quantifiable damage of more than US $125.873 billion.”

COVID-19 has exacerbated this damage to their economy, the Cuban government reported that their economy contracted 11% in 2020.

They eliminated their dual currency system, a major reform that has been debated for years. Mark Sullivan notes that economists say the currency reform will initially have high costs but, in time, it should boost productivity and development. While the economic aspect is central, the effects of the blockade coupled with the pandemic have been detrimental. As of May 12, 2021, Cuba reported 768 deaths and over 118,000 cases.

A report by Cuba stated: “The blockade constitutes a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights of all Cubans. Because of its express purpose and the political, legal and administrative scaffolding on which it is based, it qualifies as an act of genocide under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.”

Against this background and faced with what seems to be a hopeless situation, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, CSC, have organised the meeting “Breaking the Blockade 2” on Monday 24 May, the day after the United Nations General Assembly vote.

This is a live conversation from Havana with María del Carmen Herrera, director of Multilateral Affairs at Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and CSC director Rob Miller.

They will discuss how the US policy has impacted Cubans over the last twelve months and answer questions about Cuba’s most recent report to the United Nations, their predictions about this year’s vote and what international actions have, and can, be taken to support Cuba.

For further information, visit the Cuba solidarity campaign’s website.

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